Subjective social status, a new measure in health disparities research: do race/ethnicity and choice of referent group matter?

J Health Psychol. 2010 May;15(4):560-74. doi: 10.1177/1359105309354345.


Studies have shown subjective social status (SSS) is associated with multiple health outcomes. This article examines the predictors of SSS, whether these associations vary by race/ethnicity, and whether SSS is sensitive to different referents used for social comparison. Data were from a national US mail survey. Income was strongly associated with SSS only among Whites and Hispanics. While there were no SSS differences by race/ethnicity using a distal referent, Blacks had higher SSS than Whites when using more proximal referents, even after controlling for objective status indicators. Findings indicate SSS measurement may be sensitive to race/ethnicity and the comparison referent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors